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New York Times, Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Author: Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
194/17/20149/30/20179
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
21131641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61120
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
767/5/201011/14/201745
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2167111768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633152

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 40 Missing: {GQW} Spans: 5 This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Guizzo. This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: MARY LOU: I enjoyed working with and learning from Jeff. He was very kind and patient mentoring me during the long evolution of ... more
Constructor notes:

MARY LOU: I enjoyed working with and learning from Jeff. He was very kind and patient mentoring me during the long evolution of this puzzle. He designed a grid that highlighted the five theme answers, and we tried to 1.) minimize the unsavory short fill and 2.) make sure no long fill would detract from or be confused with the themers. Thanks to Will Shortz for accepting and editing the puzzle.

I hope you enjoyed solving the puzzle. It was my first acceptance by the NYT, so I was quite elated to receive that "Yes!" email.

Jeff Chen notes: Working with Mary Lou is a pleasure. She exemplifies one quality I think all good constructors must have: the ability to generate and ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Working with Mary Lou is a pleasure. She exemplifies one quality I think all good constructors must have: the ability to generate and sort through a ton of ideas. I find it takes maybe 10-20 ideas to discover one worthy of publication. Many times a person will give up after two or three theme ideas, but not her — I admire her determination and drive. When people talk about hard work leading to success, that's ML they're talking about.

As for this puzzle, I honestly was only lukewarm on the general idea at first. But when ML found five strong themers that worked, I thought twice. I'm a sucker for Muhammad Ali — "When We Were Kings," a documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, cracked my vaunted Tier 2 list of favorite movies. (I only have 28 movies listed in my Top Tier; the most recent addition was "The Fighter.") The final hook was when she pointed out the challenge of executing this grid in a way that was both smooth and fun for solvers. I'm also a sucker for a challenge.

Five 15-letter themers is so rough. Four of them is hard enough because there's so many areas that get constrained, and five adds a real kick in the pants (not the good kind). There are so few places that aren't affected by two (or more) themers. The NE and SW were especially painful — there are five parallel answers from STATS to LEE which run through the same two themers; usually a situation you want to avoid like the plague. I don't much care for A TUNE and the visual of those lone cheater squares in the corners, but all the alternatives seemed worse. Grid-making is often an exercise in iteration, trying to sort through hundreds of possibilities in an attempt to figure out what would be most interesting / least grump-inducing for solvers.

It took us a lot of iterating, plus helpful feedback from Will, in order to get it to a place where we felt like it would be a fun experience for solvers. I wish we could have worked in some long fill besides ASHANTI, OH THAT? and IN ON IT, but every arrangement incorporating 8+ letter entries caused too much stress on the grid. As always, construction is rife with trade-offs.

JimH notes: I like the Across and Down comic for this puzzle.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1008 ( 23,710 )
Across Down
1. Try to sink, maybe : RAM
4. "Rhyme Pays" rapper : ICET
8. Fantasy league figures : STATS
13. TBS competitor : USA
14. Knock silly : DAZE
15. "Ah, I didn't know what you were referring to" : OHTHAT
17. Put on a blacklist : BAN
18. The Auld Sod : ERIN
19. Honest with : TRUETO
20. "Hot to trot" or "cold feet" : IDIOM
22. Many a PX shopper : NCO
24. The Dow, for one : INDEX
25. "Amerika" novelist : KAFKA
26. Many, many moons : EON
27. Jeans brand : LEE
28. Shoreline raptor : ERNE
30. "The Rachael Ray Show" creation : MEAL
32. ___ Lanka : SRI
35. Father-and-son rulers of Syria : ASSADS
37. Homer Simpson's mother : MONA
38. One with a checkered existence? : CAB
39. Quickly write : JOT
40. "Foolish" singer, 2002 : ASHANTI
42. Time to revel : EVE
43. First-goal link : AND
44. Jockey's control : REIN
45. Privy to a practical joke, say : INONIT
47. Pastrami go-with : RYE
48. Cornerstone abbr. : ESTD
49. Porn : SMUT
50. Onetime tribe of the Upper Midwest : SAC
52. Official with a whisk broom, for short : UMP
54. Positrons' places : ATOMS
57. All, in Alba : TUTTO
59. "___ your request ..." : PER
60. Commerce pact signed by Clinton : NAFTA
61. Incite, as trouble : STIRUP
63. Dr Pepper Snapple Group brand : NEHI
65. Be sociable : MIX
66. Italian sandwich : PANINI
67. Slave away : TOIL
68. Gator's tail? : ADE
69. Marriott competitor : HYATT
70. Humane org. : SPCA
71. "N.Y. State of Mind" rapper : NAS
1. Inventor of a six-color puzzle : RUBIK
2. Carne ___ (Mexican dish) : ASADA
3. Expansionist doctrine : MANIFESTDESTINY
4. Election loser's cry : IDEMANDARECOUNT
5. Vacation rental, maybe : CAR
6. Slate or Salon : EZINE
7. Text on tablets : TENCOMMANDMENTS
8. Elbow-bender : SOT
9. Big 1975 boxing showdown : THRILLAINMANILA
10. Carry ___ (sing on key) : ATUNE
11. Darwin work ... with a hint to three consecutive letters in 3-, 4-, 7-, 9- and 11-Down : THEDESCENTOFMAN
12. Fill beyond full : SATE
16. Poison sci. : TOX
21. Gumbo need : OKRA
23. Result of a leadoff single : ONEON
29. Handy Scrabble tiles : ESSES
31. Nay sayers : ANTIS
33. Beatle George's sitar teacher : RAVI
34. "Fat chance!" : IBET
35. Cracked a bit : AJAR
36. Maker of Aibo robotic pets : SONY
41. Ask, as for a loan : HITUP
46. Eke ___ living : OUTA
51. Skylit rooms : ATRIA
53. Before surgery, informally : PREOP
55. Crete's highest peak : MTIDA
56. Big band section : SAXES
57. Rx amt. : TSP
58. One of its symbols is the sego lily : UTAH
62. Indy service area : PIT
64. Sound from an 8-Down : HIC

Answer summary: 1 debuted here and reused later.

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